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I remember her quick-footed return home after shopping; the bags put down on the kitchen counter and an admonishing word if my brother and I too quickly tried to peek into the bags. An always loving mother, she had her principles, especially if perhaps there was a surprise that she didn't want us to see. That type of principled attitude also came to the fore when I angrily hit the keys on the piano in frustration – a big no no and a reminder to control my temper.

She managed all the chores that go along with a household of six, cooking two hot meals, waiting for a late dinner when my dad would come home after a long day. She jokingly once said that as a child her dream was to become a cleaning lady, and that later on, she realized she had indeed become one, despite all her accomplishments, which included a Fulbright scholarship, a master's degree from Yale, and many years of teaching into her 80s.

I miss those quick-footed steps, replaced by the sound of wheels the walker makes and a hesitating gait. In the morning, when still lying in bed, I listen for the sound of the chair lift and its whining crescendo as it picks up pace on the first leg of the stairs going down. Times have certainly changed and with it has come a sadness that sits deep down in my throat and chest, realizing that life is moving toward a period of overall decline and no return, as the cliché may say.

I departmentalize and think that one doesn't have to be as quick as before or be as aware of the details that make up life. Heck, I can't bend over the way I used to without feeling my lumbar region stiffen and promising myself to stretch better next time. But, there is no substitute for the mind drifting away, and becoming aware that the person one has always known, who's been such a rock in life, has started to leave, and that this departure is becoming more pronounced by the month. The mother more knowledgeable and aware than the child versus the child becoming the one who mothers the parent.

Does it matter that someone forgets what we had planned for dinner or who my upstairs neighbors used to be? Is it important to be up to date on every fad? No and not really, except if every fiber of life is affected, and a great cloud of confusion, so large to impinge on one's personality overshadows everything. I practice patience, repeat myself as if it's the first and not the 10th time I've gotten the same question. I lament but understand that even the old humor has gone; who wouldn't have lost their sense of humor while witnessing one's spouse of over 60 years go through health problems that leave you exhausted? And yet, I wrestle with who I consider to be the "best mother in the world" moving on to a place that doesn't resemble her old self so much anymore.

While it seems that fate drives us all sooner or later in some direction of decline, as sobering as that may seem, I remind myself of all the good times, of the lasting impact on all of us, her grand and great grandchildren and all her friends; her truly life affirming spirit, which lives on in us and is the opposite of a decline. And I catch those wonderful glimpses when we sit next to each other, hug, when she tucks in my shirt in the back because it looks like my underpants hanging out and I realize that she's the same caring woman she's always been, who's tirelessly been there for us. The cloud in her mind will intensify, but I see the occasional light that is still there and will always seek it out while taking my slow good-bye.


Image of Written in the Stars


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